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Matt's Random Thoughts

It's one thing to hear the cast recording. But it's a whole different experience on stage.

Never throwing away my shot as the global cultural phenomenon lands in Manila (Photo courtesy of the author)

DISCLAIMER/PSA: This post is NOT SPONSORED in any way, shape, or form by GMG Productions (Philippines). I was not invited to see the show by the producers, nor did I pay for my own ticket to the show. A very good friend of mine treated me to this production along with a few of my good school friends. I am very grateful to one of my friends who treated me to watching this show.

What can I say about Lin-Manuel's Miranda's hip-hop musical Hamilton??? Ask me and I can say a lot of things about the impact of this show. It's revolutionary, it's groundbreaking, it's an international phenomenon that became a pop culture juggernaut. And it has a huge following here in the Philippines where one of our showbiz royalties, Rachelle Ann Go, became the original Eliza Hamilton stoking our Pinoy pride on stage. But even before that, Hamilton has become heavily followed globally since it first played on Broadway in 2015, with its unique blending of hip-hop and traditional Broadway songwriting, diverse casts, and the fandom it has developed. That's perhaps why ticket sales when the show's Manila run was announced was a feat unimaginable by any local or foreign theater show made before or since.

Of course, most of the world got their first exposures to Hamilton through the phenomenal award-winning cast recording, inspiring us in our tales of making our own revolutions to change the world, and even more so when the proshot with the original cast dropped on Disney+ in July 2020 within the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns and its impact on global performing arts. But while it's one thing to see and hear the original cast in recordings, it can make a much bigger impact when you see it in person, especially if you have seen it on Broadway or the West End or Australia in the past few years. as each cast has its own charm, personality, attitude, and style. The cast that came here was from the groundbreaking Australian tour, with a mix representing multiple countries including the US, UK, and South Africa. They have been delighting Aussie fans of the musical since 2021 and to add a uniquely Filipino flavor to the cast, Rachelle Ann Go reprised her original role in London, making this production a full circle homecoming.

But what makes this cast even more special and enjoyable in my eyes?

This version of Hamilton feels very personal and intimate to me, not only because of me seeing the show in person, but in the way the cast interacts with each other and the roles are executed. One example is Darnell Abraham, who played George Washington. You can easily tell that the character he portrays is one that truly cannot be messed with, especially one who's scale is outmanned, outplanned, and outnumbered. The war game in his portrayal is present throughout the show, as he put an even more determined set of emotions to a role that many Hamilton fans have grown accustomed to.

The Schuyler Sisters also brought in an energy that is even more flavorful than the original. Akina Edmonds brought an extra layer of spicyness and sassiness to the role of Angelica Schuyler. Her voice has a layer of extra spice and excitement especially in her song "Satisfied". And if Akina brings the spice, then our own Rachelle Ann Go complements that with the sweetness and bubbliness she brings as Eliza. The interactions between her and Jason Arrow (as the titular role of Alexander Hamilton) bring a whole new level of intimacy between the two characters.

However the real standout character of this production really isn't Hamilton or Washington or the Schuyler Sisters at all. It is actually the antagonist King George (Brent Hill) as he brings a sense of humor to the role originally portrayed by Jonathan Groff. The way he sang "You'll Be Back" has even more emotion than the original version and brings the whole theater to waves of laughter.

All in all, this production as with many other iterations of Hamilton across the globe have their own distinct attitudes, styles and ways of bringing this phenomenon to life. And I, along with many others who have seen this in its groundbreaking Philippine run, have been lucky to see this globally diverse and infinitely talented company that took the spirit of the original cast and brought it to a new level that left the Filipino audience spellbound, making them feel inspired to see our history in the same lens, making pieces of art that tells of who lives, who dies, and who tells your story. And because of this, I feel like I never threw away my shot to witness this global pop culture juggernaut live on stage. And I would also take this opportunity to wish the same for theater fans in Singapore and Abu Dhabi that if they could afford and have the means to by 2024, they should take the time to be a part of this revolution making waves across the globe. For this show told of who lived and died, and the world will continue to tell his story.

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  • mattdg204

Her new album is produced by kindie giant Dean Jones and features Suzi Shelton and Little Miss Ann!

What words can I use to describe Kiwi kids music songstress Claudia Robin Gunn??

Gifted. Pleasant. Sweet. Lovely. Calming. Charming.

There are just so many words that I can say to describe the wonderful Claudia, but I just can't say them all because I'm taking about her most recent album "Firefly".

When I took a listen to this, I felt like this is quite an album she got here! There are many messages of positivity and encouragement embedded all throughout this rather lovely album, and they are made even more appreciable when Dean Jones throws in his production skills that add a touch of lively pop beats to Claudia's warm and inviting songwriting. I really loved the song "Colours" featuring Little Miss Ann and Suzi Shelton. This is such a perfect collaboration with a synergy that brings these amazing songwriters across the miles. Every song in this album has the power to warm your heart and make you feel accepted and welcome. But the real standout is "Superheroes" as it celebrates not only the power of friendship but one verse here covers a child who has sought refuge from a nation at war. A very powerful show of embracing everybody from the amazing Claudia Gunn.

But in spite of these songs that will touch your heart, there may be some unexpected and hilarious surprises, as there is a little bit of spoken word in the song "Only One You" that caught me off guard and made me laugh a little.

It feels like Claudia Gunn and Dean Jones have made a match to bring an album that takes Claudia's talent to a whole new level.

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Two authors sharing a mutual love of witches and old time Hollywood in such a hilarious and fascinating conversation is my cup of tea.....

Yes, Meg Cabot really knows how to get a really good conversation started and keep it going (screengrab from the Zoom webinar organized by Blue Willow Bookshop taken by yours truly)

(Event poster courtesy of Blue Willow Bookshop on Facebook)

I have been following Meg Cabot on her social media because I do find her to be not your average author on social media. She makes all sorts of posts about her cats, her thoughts about Princess Diaries (it was Julie Andrews who made me wanna read the Princess Diaries movies), and since the onset of the COVID pandemic, she has been mingling with authors virtually. It doesn't matter if it's in a Zoom webinar or on an Instagram live, she does not just do a completely average author interview, she just loves other authors and would love to explore them a little further. And I have been very lucky to join such a conversation along with Cabot sometime back in 2020, but I barely remember which other authors she was with or what they were talking about.

It's been a hot minute since I have been watching or listening to a Meg Cabot author panel, so when I noticed on my Facebook newsfeed that Meg was going to have a free virtual event hosted by Texas-based Blue Willow Bookshop, I signed up for it with a sense of not even knowing what to expect from the conversation.

And when that conversation started, boy oh boy I was so hooked on it!

The humor and chemistry between the two fabulous female YA writers was something I never even expected, but it left me in awe once the event has finished.

You see, Meg Cabot's latest novel, "Enchanted to Meet You" is based on her family's experience in the world of witchcraft (some of her ancestors were witches) and has a title that some may consider a sign that Cabot is a big time Taylor Swift fan (Who seriously doesn't love Taylor Swift these days?) and Maureen Lenker's novel takes place in the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s where the streets of Los Angeles were filled with the stars, the glitz, and the glamor of all that is moviemaking. But hey, many authors these days have a mutual admiration for each other and the things they see from other writers and that is what makes the whole conversation between Meg and Maureen a wee bit more interesting.

Personally, I really loved when Meg Cabot brought up the aspect of witchcraft in the novel and how she feels very connected to the novel's setting in Connecticut where she grew up, as it was also the place where the first persecution against supposed witches in the United States occurred. This sorta reminded me of Dana Terrace, creator of Disney Channel's The Owl House, who also grew up in Connecticut `around the same kind of witchy lore. Then the conversation shifted to a reference to a Hollywood classic Bell, Book and Candle in Meg's Enchanted to Meet You then things really began to start clicking. Lenker is such a maven for classic Hollywood and Cabot was also fascinated by the world of 1930s Hollywood, and all the rest was still very interesting to listen to, from Meg's influence from The WB in the early 2000s, the tea they all love to drink, and so on.

But overall, what really stood out to me in this conversation is among the most liveliest I have ever heard from writers in the last two years or so. I could really listen to Meg and Maureen talk about whatever's under the sun, their passion for how old movies have a certain magic to them, which writers influenced them, the music and movies they really love, their favorite writing experiences, boy I could really listen in to 'em all day and discover even more interesting things about them....

Find "Enchanted to Meet You" and "It Happened One Fight" wherever books are sold.

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